Birding and Banding in Idaho

By Steve Dougill

Seven days on a road with a bunch of strangers, visiting new areas everyday … and never knowing what's around the corner…. Kinda scary but, oh my goodness, I was so lucky and privileged to share this birding road trip through Nevada, Idaho and Utah with such fun people and experience such amazing sights.

I want to provide a few snapshots, some images etched into my memory of the varied experiences that were condensed into such a short time. On our last night we all singled out our star birds.  Max's and C.J's was the Merlin that IBO staff brought up from the raptor banding blind up at Lucky Peak. The two sisters, Michelle and Jenifer, as well as Marci chose the Cassia Crossbills giving us cracking views in the high elevation forests. Jennifer's bird was a Chestnut- backed Chickadee; we saw a few flitting through the firs and then had close up views in the hand alongside nuthatches, creepers and both kinglets. Shari was enamored by the Western Grebe she spotted carrying a small chick on its back. We can"t forget the Dusky Grouse creeping through the undergrowth before climbing atop a small rock, Barbara's bird of the trip.  Tracy loves raptors and it's so fitting for her to choose a stunning Prairie Falcon motionless on a pole next to the road.  I think mine was the dipper, bobbing under the bridge of a mountain stream and singing it's quiet song of waterfalls and crystal water.

For a canvas that runs in the background we just had to look out the window or experience the view as we walked around: a spectacular mountain lake at 10,500ft., high in the Great Basin National Park; mirages hiding the base of tall mountains over the Great Salt Lake; Steep rocky canyons where Chukkar were calling; rolling farmland in the Treasure Valley….

Every day we were treated to wildlife experiences that rose to the top and became the current favorite: A large herd of rutting elk, A huge momma moose and her calf in the high forest, herds of bison along the shores of the Great Salt Lake…. and antelope after antelope running through the high desert.

Always there were new birds, starting with thermalling groups of Swainson's Hawks and sightings of massive eagles and finishing up with just unfathomable numbers of birds at the Great Salt Lake … tens of thousands of Avocets and Red-necked Phalaropes covering the water and disappearing into the distance.

A very fun trip with great birds and new friends for life. Come on the next adventure with us!